With Christmas well on the way, many of us are making plans that involve plentiful food, drink and relaxation for the festive period.
But while the nation is tucking into turkey with the trimmings, 1.4 million NHS staff will be heading off to work.
Following the multi-million-selling success of his book This Is Going To Hurt, writer, comedian and former junior doctor Adam Kay is delving into his diaries for a peek behind the blue curtain at Christmas-time with a series of stand-up gigs in Scotland.
Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas, named after Kay’s second book of the same name, is described as a “love letter” to all those who spend their festive season on the frontline, removing babies and baubles from wherever they get stuck.
The events promise to be “heart-warming and hilarious” live shows, mixing highlights from the books with Kay’s award-winning stand-up comedy, and exclusive new content.
Tayside and Fife events
As well as a performance in Edinburgh, there will be gigs at Perth Theatre and Concert Hall and the Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline, on, respectively, November 26 and December 2.
“The NHS frontline sadly doesn’t get invited to Christ’s all-you-can-eat birthday shindig”, Kay writes. “For medical personnel the world over, Christmas is just another day.
“Coming once a year, the Yuletide brings more than its rightful share of hospital drama. Festive flus and pneumonia keep the respiratory teams busy, while norovirus and food poisoning are the special guests for gastro doctors.
“Endocrinologists drag patients out of their mince-pie-induced diabetic comas, and the orthopaedic wards heave with elderly patients who’ve gone full Jenga on the ice, shattering their hips like bags of biscuits.”
He adds: “A&E departments are busier than turkey farms, thanks to black eyes from carelessly popped champagne corks, fleshy forearms seared by roasting tins, and children concussing themselves by hurtling down the stairs in the box their Scalextric came in.
“Not to mention the fairy –light electrocutions, turkey bones trapped in tracheas, and finger amputations from careless parsnip-chopping. Incidences of drunk driving go through the roof, often literally.
“And then of course there’s the carnage when families reach breaking point – usually some time between the Queen’s speech and the late-night list shows.”
Behind the scenes
Kay worked as a doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology wards around the UK for seven years, delivering babies and caring for women in ultra-pressured circumstances.
He has been an outspoken critic of the under-resourcing of the NHS under various governments, putting staff at risk of burnout and endangering patient safety.
But while his work as a comedian and writer has a serious element, he endeavours to let his audience see “behind the scenes” of the medical profession in a humorous way.
Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas
Since giving up medicine for the entertainment industry, he has worked on such TV series as Mitchell & Webb, Mrs. Brown’s Boys, and Blind Date. In Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas, he revisits some of his most memorable moments of working during the festive period.
“Labouring mothers don’t really have the option of staying home for a couple of days to ‘see if it’ll settle down’,” he muses.
“Of the seven Christmas Days I was a practising doctor, I ended up on the wards for six of them. First of all, everyone thought I was Jewish, so assumed I wouldn’t mind working on the least Jewish day of the year.
“In fairness to those people who thought I was Jewish, I was – and indeed I still am – but with the emphasis on the ‘ish’.
The hard shifts
“Added to this I didn’t – and indeed still don’t – have any children. Christmas being a time for kids and all, the medics with young families would rise to the top of the Norway spruce and get the day off. I didn’t begrudge them this, though for a while I did consider inventing some convenient yet imaginary offspring.
“The thankless toil of actual parenthood would probably have been an extremely expensive, stressful and inefficient way to get a free pass to eat sprouts on the same day as everyone else.
“Besides, even if you do end up avoiding Christmas Day, you’ll almost certainly be stuck with the nightshift, or Boxing Day, or New Year’s Eve. Ultimately, the sh*** shifts still have to be filled and no one ever gets to avoid them all.”